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David House [Celluloid 05.18.20] documentary

The excellent documentary series Time Warp continues on May 19 with the second instalment, looking at some of the horror and sci-fi films that we love to visit again and again, and turn our friends on to. This is what makes a special favourite into a cult film; repeat viewings, and spreading our zany enthusiasm to anyone who will listen. The series continues with Joe Dante and his panel of Illeana Douglas, John Waters and Kevin Pollack providing colourful anecdotes, insightful commentary and behind-the-scenes context.

We start with horror films that have grown to cult status. When one thinks about horror films, they immediately imagine being frightened, scared, startled or disgusted. While this is often a common element, the genre includes several different kinds of horror. There's supernatural, gore/splatter, monsters, werewolves and vampires, haunted house, possession, paranormal, black comedy, psychological and, of course, zombies.

Time Warp - Volume 2 starts off by looking at one of the most important and ground breaking cult films of all time, Night of the Living Dead. Little did George Romero know, way back in 1968, what effect his low budget black and white movie about slow moving, bloodthirsty, flesh-eating monsters would have on the history of cinema. This creepy gem has spawned many sequels, spin-offs, and award winning TV series. Romero's own Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead, Tom Savini's Night of the Living Dead and a favourite of mine, Sam Rami's The Evil Dead. This one involves the traditional story of a group of teens heading off for a wild weekend at a remote 'cabin-in-the-woods', where they unwittingly release puss-oozing, flesh-possessing demons, and are then gruesomely picked off one by one; until of course, only the most unlikely-to-survive hot looking babe is left to try to fight and survive to sunrise. Many filmmakers owe a great deal to George Romero for opening the theater doors to the world of Zombies.

Volume 2 goes on to look at:

The Devil's Rejects - kill everything that moves. (with a little extra love for Sid Haig here).

The Human Centipede - a totally disgusting concept that you either loved or hated (there was no middle ground).

Re-Animator - an obsessed 'wanna be Doctor Frankenstein' invents a serum to bring the dead back to life; lots of sick humour here.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre - although it is noted as one of the grossest, most horrific horror films, the truth is that most of the actual gore is off-screen, and only suggested or implied.

Death Race 2000 - a politically subversive combo of humour and violence that uncannily predicts the boom of TV reality shows.

A Clockwork Orange - Kubrick's mainstream mixture of ultra-violence and sexuality with the music of Beethoven. It was so feared that it was endorsing violence and could incite violence that it was withdrawn from cinemas in the UK.

Volume 2 goes on to look at 4 very different sci-fi cult favourites including the very influential Blade Runner, a film noir about a rogue android, examines the meaning of what it means to 'be alive,' and makes an argument for this being perhaps the greatest cult film of all time. The allegorical The Brother from Another Planet, is set in Harlem and deals with race relations, the immigrant experience, freedom and hypocrisy.

The mind-blowing Liquid Sky, the far-out psychedelic era film, with invisible aliens hypnotic effects, new wave music and lots and lots of drugs and sex; definitely, love it or hate it material.

And finally, the wild and crazy, and for many, totally incomprehensible, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai. Unique, dry, subtle, humour, much like that of many oddball British comedy productions. Evil alien invaders, Jeff Goldblum and an awesome all-star cast; what's not to like in this film with a fanatical following? Well, it's your fault that you don't understand it!! "I'll explain it to you later."

Many of these cult favourites owe a lot of their success to coming along at just the right time. The Video Stores that sprang up in the 70's offered lesser titles the chance to be seen at home on VHS tapes. Many of the films talked about in Volume 2 saw great benefits from this home video explosion through the 80's and into the 90's, and gained their popularity from being found on the horror, sci-fi and Cult section shelves in every little mom and pop Video Store in the little towns where these films would never have been shown in the local movie house. Later releases like Human Centipede rode into their notoriety with the increasing availability of VOD services. Well now we're in the home isolation times of the 2020's and although we can't gather in crowded theaters yet, we can almost certainly find all of these cult faves, and many, many, more on various internet streaming services. There's even a return to re-opening some drive-in theaters. So now, off we go to the pleasure and pain of revisiting some of these Cult favourites and discovering some of the more obscure gems that we hadn't previously unearthed.

We'll be back soon with a review of Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time Volume 3 Comedy and Camp which, on June 23, will be released on demand and on digital.

Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time Volume 3 is available on digital and VOD on May 19.

Recommended Release: The Cabin in the Woods

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